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Pa. House passes youth-sports safety rules

Thursday, September 30th, 2010



Pennsylvania lawmakers are weighing new rules to educate parents and coaches on the risks of brain injury in youth sports.

(Photo: Flickr/StuSeeger)

Under the legislation, students with a suspected concussion will be barred from play. In order to return to competition or practice, an athlete would need clearance from a health professional trained in the management of concussions.

Bill sponsor Montgomery County Representative Tim Briggs was inspired by the story of a local high school sophomore.

Briggs: The coach let him back into practice, couple days later he received another concussion, and he doesn’t play football anymore.

The bill also requires coaches to get certified in spotting the signs of a concussion. Briggs wants to change the youth-sports culture that urges kids to simply shake off hard hits.

Briggs:
I think that it will have an effect on how we introduce our younger kids to sports, modifying tackle football at a young age, focusing more on the fundamentals of the sport, and not getting right into hardcore tackling or just being more conscious of the risks.

Existing policies already pull students from a game when they have a concussion, but Briggs says the new bill goes further and bars athletes until they get medical clearance.

The new rules would be for all high school or junior high athletes.

Neuropsychologist Drew Nagele says doctors will look for tell-tale signs of brain injury.

Nagele: Whether there’s headache, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, memory impairment, double vision, problems with balance, and again the testing needs to be done under exertion because sometimes it looks like the athlete is better but then once they start playing again, under exertion, the symptoms can return.

Nagele is with the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania which supports the bill.

Some lawmakers rejected the proposal. They’re worried students in rural areas would have to travel long distances to see health professionals with concussion training.

The state House of Representatives passed the bill on Sept. 28th. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.


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